WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Protesters at Howard University chanted and booed on Friday through James Comey’s first public address since he testified to Congress on the Russia probe and his firing by U.S. President Donald Trump, challenging the former FBI director with a taste of the “real world” he was trying to describe to them.
Members of the audience began chanting the civil rights song “We Shall Not Be Moved” as Comey stood at the podium during a video about the historically black university.
Chants continued and intensified at times as he began his address, which focused on how he believed college campuses were very much a part of what he called the “real world.”
Comey did not ignore the protesters.
“The rest of the real world is a place where it’s hard sometimes to find people who will listen with an attitude that they might actually be convinced of something,” he told them.
“Instead, what happens in most of the real world – and about four rows in this auditorium – is that people don’t listen at all. They just try to figure out what rebuttal they’re going to offer when you’re done speaking.”
Comey became a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats when he announced shortly before the Nov. 8, 2016, U.S. presidential election that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had discovered a new trove of emails involving the party’s presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. Many, including Clinton, said they believed this contributed to her loss to Republican Trump.
In June testimony before a congressional panel, Comey accused the president of firing him in May to try to undermine the FBI’s investigation of possible collusion by Trump’s campaign with Russia’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 election.
The president has denied he tried to interfere with an FBI investigation, but Comey has remained a favorite target of Trump.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn